Manchester United are back to where they belong, at the top, after six games. One should not get too far ahead of themselves as the league has just started to heat up but can also not be “not excited” looking at the prospects of this United team. United didn’t let the excellent opportunity, that Manchester City presented them, of going on top, pass, by winning their last two games while their city rivals losing both. Only a couple of weeks back, Manchester City were Champions elect but as per things standing now, it doesn’t seem to be the case. This league is wide open and United will now have to keep up the momentum to build up the point difference and stay on the top.
A lot of United players turned up today but with Sunderland focussing more on blocking, the Red Devils found it difficult to find a breakthrough. However, late in to the first half, an absolutely brilliant pass from Daley Blind found Juan Mata, who placed the ball perfectly for Memphis Depay, to score his first Premier League goal. It was a day for a lot of “firsts” for United. Along with Memphis’s first goal, Wayne Rooney too got his first for the season along with David De Gea finding his first clean sheet of the season. But it must have been the Reds captain that would have been more relieved than happy, that the 1000 minutes long goalless ordeal, is finally over. When asked about it , he seemed to be content over scoring but also made sure of giving the credit where it was due, while saying:
“Yeah, well I (have) seen Anthony made a good run and want to go passed couple of defenders, just got in the box and I tried to get on the end of it and thankfully I did. Obviously, it was nice to score.”
On being on the top of the league, United captain did mention, that it is still early days to conclude anything and lot of things could happen, but also expressed his obvious desire of maintaining the position. He went on to add:
“That’s what we’re all playing for. We have to work hard to make sure we stay there.”
Gary Neville, took to twitter expressing his delight on the result but also staying realistic at the same time.
Glass of red thinking " are we gonna win the league " !! Haha. Nice thought for tonight even if it doesn't happen
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) September 26, 2015
Louis van Gaal, too was happy with being on the top of the league, as it was the first time that his United team are in that position since he took over last year. He was satisfied with the outcome and the improvement when he said:
“Last season at this stage I think we were in 13th position in the league table, so I’m a happy coach.”
The stats might not be accurate, as United were actually fourth at this stage, but one can understand the point of his statement, looking at the points from the top and goal difference last season. The manager also made it clear that he doesn’t care who scores the goal, till the time its a United player doing it.
“I am pleased for them but for me it does not make any difference because for me we have to make goals as a team. Who makes them is not so important. You have to beat your opponents and when you make one more goal than the opponents, you are the winner. That is the game.”
United have now scored nine goals in their last three games, three a piece, while scoring only three in the first four. The Red Devils manager reflected upon this noticeable upward trend in the goal scoring department:
“It’s also a little bit of luck but we are more composed with the ball and we’re making better decisions in the third and fourth phase. But you need also luck and also at the right moment that you are composed as a player. Memphis made a fantastic goal but the biggest chance was his second chance and then he was not composed.”
United’s latest sensation, Anthony Martial did not score today, but that did not stop him from getting the man of the match for his tremendous performance with the ball. The youngster was ever so strong with the ball and his movement created a lot of space for his team mates. The performance also did not miss the manager’s keen eye and was found praising the youngster’s contribution:
“I am very pleased with the performance of Anthony because he is not only a goalscorer, he is also an attacking point and he also prepares goals. So for us he is more important than I thought before he came.”
The Dutch taskmaster admitted that the second half performance was more dominance and less attack and hopes that the fans can understand the situation. He said:
“I was also very happy for the fans. In the second half we controlled the game more than we attacked. And I hope that the fans have understanding for that. But I was very pleased with the third goal because it was a reflection of the game.”
Van Gaal did not, however, fail to mention the delaying tactics that the Sunderland player evidently deployed right from the kick off and cheekily blamed these tactics for the first goal while saying:
“I was very happy with the goal in extra-time because they punished themselves. They were always wasting time and the referee was not reacting to that.
“A goal is the biggest influence in a game and I changed my approach at half-time because of that. It became another game but they didn’t come at us very much.”
With some challenging fixtures lined up ahead, Van Gaal was realistic and forthcoming on the job that needs to be done:
“Yes, not only for the Champions League but to maintain our top position in the league because we have to play Arsenal away, it’s the most difficult game but last year we won there so we have hope.”
United will play against VfL Wolfsburg mid-week and Arsenal at Emirates on the weekend, which will start a short streak of tricky fixtures for United. But with the performances that the supporters have seen so far, there is surely a lot of positive anticipation for the coming games. Till that time however, Manchester United will enjoy something that they haven’t in couple of years, sitting at the top of the Barclays Premier League table.